This isn’t really a change — they never threatened to exclude him, after all — but when you’ve got the guy who’s been bankrolling Scozzafava now uttering warm, inclusive words about Hoffman, it’s safe to say the GOP has about given up on its nominee.

The House Republican leadership is prepared to welcome Doug Hoffman into its ranks, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said Thursday, a sign that the GOP establishment is recalibrating its approach toward the contentious New York special election and the Conservative Party nominee whose candidacy has divided the party.

“He would be very welcome, with open arms,” Sessions told POLITICO in an interview off the House floor…

On Thursday afternoon, Sessions appeared to tacitly acknowledge that Hoffman may represent the GOP’s best chance to keep the Republican-held seat from being picked up by a Democrat.

“I think it’s pretty clear that a person who would vote for John Boehner, support tax cuts, support growing our economy, and defeat Nancy Pelosi’s tax and spend agenda will be really welcome in our conference, and I think having a person who can win that district off that message would be really good for the Republican Party,” Sessions said.

This brings us back to the question of why they’re still propping up Scozzafava instead of asking her to drop out. Larry Sabato has some thoughts about that tonight. They may sound … familiar.

As I write this, the three-way debate that was taped earlier this afternoon is airing in upstate New York. WSYR already has their answers to some of the hot-button questions. Here’s video of Hoffman after it ended.

Update: ABC’s got 90 seconds from an exchange between Owens and Hoffman on taxes.

debate